Following an internet blackout on Wednesday from Wikipedia, Google, Mozilla, and many of the web’s biggest sites to protest piracy bills SOPA and PIPA, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced this morning that PIPA’s vote, which was scheduled for Tuesday, has been cancelled.
Politico notes that Reid acknowledged Wednesday’s blackout, saying “In light of recent events, I have decided to postpone Tuesday’s vote on the PROTECT IP Act.”
It’s a major victory both for internet companies and internet users who came together in a massive show of solidarity Wednesday to protest the bills. SOPA and PIPA would allow copyright holders like movie studios and record companies to work closely with the Department of Justice to shut down sites they suspect of piracy at the DNS level and block sites’ payment infrastructures, all without due process. The proposed bills were a fundamental change to the free speech practices applied to the internet, and threatened critical components of web communication.
Protest against the bills is largely credited with swaying lawmakers away from their favor. As soon as Wednesday afternoon we documented the flight of the co-sponsors, and Politico notes: “After Internet users bombarded their representatives in Washington with calls and emails over the piracy bills, lawmakers started jumping ship from sponsoring PIPA and SOPA.”
Google has been an outspoken opponent of the bills, but has indicated a commitment to fighting piracy though other channels that don’t threaten free speech and give undue power to movie studios and record companies. Responding to tweets from Rupert Murdoch that called the company a “piracy leader,” Google wrote in an email to Cnet: “We fight pirates and counterfeiters every day. We believe, like many other tech companies, that the best way to stop [pirates] is through targeted legislation that would require ad networks and payment processors–like ours–to cut off sites dedicated to piracy or counterfeiting,” rather than at the DNS level.
It appears Harry Reid is beginning to side with Google: “We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks. There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved,” he said in announcing PIPA’s cancellation.
Despite Hollywood having lobbied Congress intensely for months in crafting SOPA and PIPA, it appears Silicon Valley companies, backed by the full force of internet users, will now get a chance to set the tone for what approach to fighting piracy is constitutionally appropriate.
So far Rupert Murdoch’s newly notorious Twitter feed has been silent on the PIPA vote getting cancelled. He did have time time to weigh in on Megaupload’s shutdown, however, celebrating with a tweet: “Mega loads! One week earlier and things would be different. Even some solons may have recovered their courage.”
Declare victory, even when you’ve been handed a defeat—sounds like Murdoch, all right.